September 2009 Archives
Just as it's about to cause chaos with our Freeview boxes (due for a re-tune after noon tomorrow - Wednesday September 30) Channel 5 comes up with the most promising thing on TV for some time. Interesting, too, that it has more than a smattering of British front-of-camera talent on display - rather like The Wire.
There are detectives at the forefront again, but there the comparison ends, because FlashForward is much more like Lost. It's the same Rubik's cube-style puzzle, twisting and turning plots and characters to try to make sense of the global mega-event - the whole world passing out at the same time and seeing visions of the future. Or not if you're FBI agent John Cho, sidekick of our hero Joseph Fiennes. Where Lost had a polar bear, FlashForward has a kangaroo in downtown Los Angeles.
It's that time of year again, or does it seem to be getting earlier? Getting off to a spine-tingling start, BBC's Strictly Come Dancing dominates our screens once again, filling living rooms nationwide with sequin-reflected light and Tess Daly's warm northern notes.
If you missed last week's drama: here's the sixty second round-up:
This year's series, the seventh since is birth in 2004, has taken a few blows in the first week - most notably the reshuffle of judges causing a tirade of criticism for the replacement of Strictly stalwart Arlene Phillips, with dancer newbie Alesha Dixon.
The west coast of America is a popular route for road trippers and so two weeks ago we met some friends in Seattle and have been driving south heading to Los Angeles.
We made a rough plan before we left of where we'd like to stay and driving times but the only real requirement was reaching LA in time for our friends to catch their flight home. Along the way we've seen some beautiful coastline and visited some lovely places, but I don't think we were quite prepared for how much time we'd have to spend in the car.
Ten years ago this month, I sat each evening at a supper table in Pretoria. The Afrikaans host of the pension where I stayed, put his half-dozen or so guests around the same table. Thereby I got to dine with the most interesting of companions. They ranged from diplomats to engineers. Some were South Africans, some foreigners like myself. Most were seeking to help the fledgling new society function well.
Spymonkey's Moby Dick, currently opening a nationwide tour at Royal&Derngate, Northampton, must be the funniest show on any stage in Britain at the moment.
Given the company's global reach, that accolade will soon, no doubt, read 'anywhere in the world'. It really is that brilliant. Sly and witty, deftly debunking theatrical conventions at every turn, full of brilliantly-executed physical comedy, with warm and winning turns from a company of four magnificent performers, it is an absolute must-see.
I recently had a life-defining moment which I feel I must share.
Flicking through The Guardian (to be fair, dear reader, I was in Leicester and there were no Posts to be found) I came across a picture of the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith, in his newly-unveiled trademark look. Aside from thinking that a bow tie and tweed jacket was the mode du jour for all Open University lecturers of my childhood, rather than time-travellers, my main response was "Is that really news?"
That's not a comment on the increasingly central role that Saturday night television is playing in defining our national culture, but because I'd already seen that image. Three days previously a friend in Cardiff had texted me a pic from her mobile phone and a formal BBC publicity shot was online the next day and highlighted in a Twitter feed.
My reaction to the Doctor's photo was a microcosm of the issue being faced by the Post at present. Printed media is simply unable to keep pace with contemporary news dissemination such as Twitter, websites and blogs.
I am getting keyed up over the 65-plus exam. When I was coming up to secondary school age, a whole lifetime ago, life was simple. Fraught but simple. You passed the 11-plus and went to your nearest grammar school or you failed and went to your nearest secondary modern school. It was the same throughout the country, with results like those pictured.
Despite the demonising of the legendary exam, it was far less stressful than the constant testing my children faced, and a complete doddle compared to what my grandchildren are put through.
Here's a link for you. Launched at Nottingham Playhouse today (Wednesday Sept 16) it's a new, easy-to-use website aimed at providing blind and deaf people with more information about their local theatres and the facilities they have to offer including details of British Sign Language interpreted, captioned and audio described performances.
The website also includes audio clips and a facility for screen enlargement. It also allows blind people to use their own screen readers and magnifiers effectively. Deaf people can make use of the film clips, which translate much of the site into British Sign Language.
It's easy to see why Disney's Beauty and the Beast has picked up so many award nominations. The current UK touring production, at Birmingham's Alex in June and at Stoke's Regent next week, is playing to packed houses in Northampton this week - a bit of a step change from my last few visits to take in the various elements of the Royal & Derngate's brilliant Ayckbourn season.
But this is state of the art musical theatre, filling the huge Derngate stage with clever film inserts, heart-stopping pyrotechnics, wonderful cartoon-style comedy (don't forget the 'Disney' in the title), excellent live music and some fabulous performances. A magnificent chunk of family entertainment delivered with energy by a superb company.
Much has been written about the recent deaths of Birmingham-born conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife, Lady Joan, at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. Whatever your personal views on assisted suicide - or death in the manner and the time of your own choosing, as others see it - it's hard not to be moved by the story of a couple married for decades who took the decision that they couldn't live without each other.
For a musician, such as Sir Edward, losing first your sight and then your hearing must be devastating. Concerns about hearing loss have been exorcising the musical world for years now. Although one might think that rock musicians are at greatest risk, players in our finest orchestras suffer just as often. And recent research shows that you are probably at risk too.